True Beauty || just-a-humble-spinner
The ballroom at King Oberon’s palace glittered in the light of a million fireflies clinging to the domed ceiling. An enviable sight even among the echelons of fairy nobility. Their burning tails blinked as music vibrated the air around Belle’s ears. She wanted every worry to float off on the melody. Her feet twitched to start dancing. Unfortunately, the presence of one of the king’s sons, Gaston, stifled her enthusiasm. For months now her father had cajoled and badgered regarding a potential marriage to the handsome prince. Gaston was the oldest unmarried child of Oberon and Titania, which meant his parents were as eager to marry him off as Maurice. For Belle’s part, it might not have felt like a penal sentence were Gaston a more engaging suitor. His interests and knowledge consisted of hunting and fashion and little more. It was no crime to enjoy either, but it hardly boded well for any relationship, let alone a marriage, when the man declined other pursuits and derided Belle’s love of books and mysterious knowledge that only the most powerful fairies could enjoy.
She had implored her father to let her forsake a lady or princess’s life to join the Blue Fairy’s ranks of earth-protectors. Her world felt so small, albeit full of pretty castles and clothes, compared to all that lay beyond the fairy realm. Why was she not allowed to learn more of the other creatures and their homelands? Humans, elves, dwarves, even imps. She would rather have helped directly in the conflict against their dark enemy than hide in the safety of a magic-sealed tower. But no, Maurice would never let harm touch his only daughter.
They finally reached a compromise: Belle would consent to a betrothal to Gaston. However, she would have a year to select someone else as a worthy replacement. Gaston bristled at this condition and had since used a mix of flattery and intimidation to secure her hand. Every encounter made her more determined to find some escape. If she could manage without binding herself to yet another man, all the better.
On cue, Gaston materialized beside her as soon as the music crested into the first dance. He asked her to dance while wearing a calm, haughty look that tempted her to roll her eyes. Instead she forced a smile and acquiesced.
Nobility and royalty flooded into a rhythmic twirl while sentries kept watch over every door, every possible entrance an intruder could have used. But some creatures do not need doors to go where they want to be.
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